For the past year I’ve been involved in developing a social networking type website where we wanted the ability to do a “radius search”, ie you could for example ask for a list of all site members who live within 10km of you, or all health food stores etc etc. The site is being built on the Joomla framework using Community Builder. One of the reasons we went with this combination rather than dedicated social networking software, or  a dedicated social networking Joomla component like JomSocial was because of the availability of a “Community Builder Zip Code Radius Search Component” (for searching members) and a “Mosets Tree Radius Search Component” (for searching a directory of businesses) from a company called ZipCodeShop.

Alas, our experience with ZipCodeShop (ZCS), despite starting well, has not been a good one. I contacted them and told them I was looking at buying both components, and they were more than helpful. I purchased the ZCS Community Builder component, for US$99, and started trying to implement it in my site. I sort of got it working, and for 2 days ZCS support via email were extremely fast, and extremely helpful – though they did continue to ignore requests to be given access to their support forums. The component itself was encoded and hardcoded with a licence linked to my domain name. This concerned me as we had plans to change the domain name, but they assured me it would be no problem to do so. After a couple of days I was still having a few problems, and they informed me a new version was coming the following week, and that prices would be increasing – so I should buy the Moset’s tree version straight away. I elected not to do so.

That was in February. Since then I have lodged more than a dozen support ticket requests and followups through their online ticketing system. I have sent numerous emails directly. I have left messages with their Live Online Support. I’ve even tried several international phone calls. Nothing. I would be concerned they had gone of business, or the principles had some serious health issues or similar, but at the end of April a message appeared on their site stating they were upgrading their site and the new one would be up at the end of the week. At the end of the week, the message disappeared but nothing else changed. Thus, I’m left with an encoded component who’s bugs I cannot fix, and which I cannot easily customised for my purposes, as I was assured I could.

Sadly, posts on Joomlapolis indicate my experience is not unique. I left further messages last week advising ZipCodeShop I would be doing this blog post, but there has been no response.

In the meantime I’ve developed a replacement component to the ZipCodeShop radius search component using the excellent Fabrik development framework, available at www.fabrikar.com. For those who have been left wanting by ZCS I’ll try to blog about my solution in the next week.